The Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has vowed to ramp up its enforcement effort against truck, bus and coach drivers caught breaking drivers’ hours rules, thanks to wider-ranging fine-issuing powers set to be introduced.
Currently, the agency is only able to issue fixed penalty notices to drivers whose hours offences have been committed that day, or which are current and ongoing.
Tackling earlier offences requires a court process, which is costly and time-consuming, and can result in failure to respond to court summons by drivers without a UK address.
But new draft regulations laid before Parliament last month will give DVSA’s traffic examiners the ability to issue penalties for any drivers’ hours offences issued over the last 28 days.
This will allow the agency to tackle foreign-based drivers more effectively, it says, since they will have to pay any penalties before they are allowed to continue on their journey – or face immobilisation of their vehicles.
The news coincides with recent reports of sophisticated tachograph fraud being perpetrated primarily by drivers entering the UK from the continent.
DVSA will also be able to issue fines for up to five drivers’ hours offences in a single check, meaning drivers could face fines of up to £1,500 from a single stop if found to have consistently broken the rules – whether this occurred in Great Britain or elsewhere.
The agency said it would confirm the implementation date for these new rules closer to the time.
In addition, from 1 November, DVSA said it will issue fines of up to £300 to lorry drivers caught taking their full weekly 45-hour rest breaks within the vehicle, following consultation earlier in the year regarding whether this would be appropriate.
The Road Haulage Association later said it had secured clarification from the DVSA that the ban on in-cab weekly rests would not apply to official truck stops, and that enforcement would concentrate on drivers sleeping in cabs outside of formal rest areas.
This indicates a more relaxed attitude to the issue than may be found in mainland Europe, where ‘weekended’ drivers are often forbidden from spending full weekly rest periods in their cabs, but must either return home or be booked into hotel accommodation.
RHA Chief Executive Richard Burnett said: “It would be totally inappropriate to ban all in-cab weekly rests; the impact on UK international and long distance operators would have been catastrophic.
“The problem we have is with is inconsiderate, and sometimes illegal weekly rests taken where there are no facilities. That is bad for the public, for the reputation of the industry, for drivers’ health and for the safety of other road users.”
The clampdown on cab rests follows action by authorities in Kent against 3,700 truck drivers found to be parking illegally or inappropriately last year.
“Drivers sleeping in their vehicles can cause problems among local communities and there have been a number of complaints about noise, nuisance, litter and anti-social behaviour,” said the DVSA.
“Traffic examiners will target enforcement in places such as laybys where such behaviour is causing problems and work with their counterparts overseas to tackle foreign operators who do this regularly.”
The agency said safety was the primary justification for the tougher new measures, citing the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), which says that driving while tired could be the cause of one in five accidents, and up to a quarter of serious and fatal crashes.
It also highlighted the Department for Transport’s Think! campaign, which suggests that around 40 per cent of sleep-related accidents involve commercial vehicles – adding that, in addition to improving safety, the measures would help reduce the cost of collisions to the economy, and the burden on the NHS.
“These tougher penalties will help us to take stronger action against any drivers or operators who break drivers’ hours rules and will help make our roads safer,” said DVSA chief executive Gareth Llewellyn.
“There’s no excuse for driving while tired. The results of falling asleep at the wheel of a 44-tonne lorry can be devastating to families and communities.
“Any driver breaking these rules is putting other road users at risk and could face losing their licence and livelihood.”
Highways England‘s chief highways engineer, Mike Wilson, added: “Safety is our number one priority, and with 70 percent of all freight using our motorways and major A-roads, our road network is fundamental to goods and services travelling around the country.
“That is why we support this move to help make journeys safer for everyone.”
James Firth, head of licensing policy and compliance information at the Freight Transport Association, added: “For some years, DVSA officers have been virtually powerless to take effective action against non-UK HGV drivers who may have committed a string of offences in the days and weeks before the vehicle is stopped.
“These new powers mean the enforcement authorities will be more able – and more likely – to take action against all drivers who are found to have repeatedly flouted these critical road safety laws.”
Image: DVSA Crown copyright